Man who nearly died in scooter crash speaks out

SAN DIEGO -- A man who nearly died while riding a motorized scooter is warning others and speaking out as city leaders prepare to propose new regulations when it comes to the dockless companies.

San Diego police say around 8:30 p.m. on June 11, George Gardikas, 41, traveled into the path of a car and was hit. Officers said Gardikas was not wearing a helmet and was cited for DUI.

Gardikas said he does not remember the crash and has little memory of the touch-and-go moments while he was in the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

“Somehow somebody was watching over me and luckily I didn’t die,” Gardikas said.

Gardikas said he suffered broken ribs, a fractured jaw, and a broken clavicle and scapula. He said at one point his lungs collapsed and his kidneys shut down. He spent more than a month in the hospital and eight months later, he is still healing.

“This accident will be forever be in my memory. There’s no way I’ll ever forget it. I’ll think about it everyday. Every time I touch my shoulder I feel the plate,” Gardikas said.

This is just one of the scooter-related trauma cases doctors at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest say they have seen.

“We’re probably seeing about one to two injuries a week just in the trauma center. The emergency department itself might be seeing more. In fact, probably are. The injuries range from simple concussions to major orthopedic injuries to major brain injuries where patients have to be in the ICU for several days and sometimes weeks,” said Dr. Vishal Bansal, director of trauma surgery at Scripps Mercy.

FOX 5 reached out to several law enforcement agencies to ask how many scooter-related crashes they have seen. Multiple departments said they don't currently have a thorough system to track scooter accidents. However, a report from San Diego Police Department shows since March of 2018, there have been more than 70 people hurt in crashes involving scooters. However, doctors estimate that number is actually higher.

“Injuries we see oftentimes bypass the police department completely and these patients report to the emergency department themselves as walk-in patients,” Dr. Bansal said.

According to police records, a number of the scooter-related crashes are happening in downtown San Diego. The city said to make roadways safer for both drivers and scooter riders, it is working on adding and improving bike lanes like one along J Street.

“Brand new cycle tracks, two-lane buffered cycle tracks -- that’s part of a network of 9.3 miles of cycle tracks that we’re building throughout the downtown core,” said Greg Block, public affairs manager for Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Office.

On top of the new and improved lanes, Block said city leaders are about to propose a list of regulations.

“This industry is evolving so quickly we don’t really know what’s going to be a year from now so we’re putting some rules in place that are common sense regulations around the industry that we think will help them integrate into our community,” Block said.

Block said the new rules include:

  • Scooter staging to prevent them from cluttering the sidewalks
  • Charging dockless companies for each device they operate in San Diego
  • Speed reduction in certain high-pedestrian traffic areas like the boardwalks
  • Requiring dockless companies to increase rider education
  • Requiring the companies to share data with the city, which would include where people are riding scooters, how many are on the streets and maintenance activities

Block said the City of San Diego is still learning about the new mode of transportation, which does have its perks.

“It’s good for our climate action plan goals. It’s good for reducing vehicles on the road,” Block said.

Gardikas said rules are already in place that people don't follow.

“They say when you have the app that you're supposed to use the bike lane. Most people don’t do it. And it says on the app that you have to have a driver’s license and I see children on them all the time,” Gardikas said.

Gardikas said he will never step foot on an electric scooter again and advises others to do the same.

“Don’t take life for granted because you never know. It could change in a heartbeat,” Gardikas said.

City leaders said they will be presenting their regulation proposals in front of the Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 20.

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